AUDIO: Guest Appearance on I-70 Baseball Radio

Monday night, I had the pleasure of making a guest appearance on Bill Ivie’s I-70 Baseball Radio podcast on blogtalkradio.com.  It is a great compilation of Cardinals and Royals fan bloggers and always a fun listen.  This particular episode, they gathered up bloggers representing every team in the NL Central.  I took part in the panel discussion and made my case for the Chicago Cubs winning the Central in 2011. Some of you may have already heard it as it was their highest rated episode since launching in July of last year.  (For a more in detail description of what I expect out of the Cubs in 2011, check out the post below this one).

It really was fun to do and I think you’ll enjoy it.  The Cardinals fans hope they lock Pujols in before Spring Training although they don’t think it’s a hard deadline, the Pirates fans seem to believe they will once again finish in the basement of the division, the Brewers folks are confident they will contend and everyone (except me) believes either the Reds or Cardinals is the best team in the Central.  Pretty sure they thought I must be delusional to think the Cubs can pull this off in 2011, although Bill Ivie was on board with the concept that it’s not impossible for things to fall into place and make 2011 the Cubs’ year.  Hey, crazier things have happened and this division is going to be one of the tightest in all of baseball.
Go Cubs Go!
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2011 Season Preview – WE’RE GOING TO SHOCK THE WORLD

We shocked the world“.

Those words are uttered in only two cases.  Absolute disasters, or sports miracles.  It’s kind of bizarre, but in no other situation do you ever hear of anyone saying that the world was shocked. Ever.  Even with Obama’s election, perhaps some of the world was surprised but no one stated that he had shocked the world, or that our country had shocked the world given our election’s result…and that was a historical Presidential election.

Many would consider the Cubs winning the World Series to be an absolute sports miracle. If the Cubs were to in fact win the World Series, become the champions of the world in the world of baseball…you can bet a LOT of money that someone will use that phrase.  Someone will flat out state that the Cubs’ victory over the Boston Red Sox (yeah, that’s right, the Boston Red Sox) surprised the entire world, our entire planet, so much that it is in shock. Chicago?  Certainly.  Boston?  Yes.  Canada?  Um, ok.  Bangladesh?  Paris?  Sydney? Helsinki???  Intrigued?  Perhaps?  Shocked?  No.

If the Cubs were to win the World Series then yes, someone will say they shocked the world. In reality?  They would have made millions of Cubs fans VERY happy and many baseball fans or people who have a heart would happily give them a pleasant smile, perhaps a teary eye and a ‘that’s cool’ sentiment considering the over a century long drought the team has suffered through and well, to not feel something towards a group of people who suffered for so long…yes, you’d have to be heartless to not.  However, I feel shocked is a bit of a stretch.

The streak itself lends itself as the only evidence you truly need to NOT be shocked by the Cubs winning the World Series.  Over ONE HUNDRED years without a championship.  Others have done it much more quickly.  The Mets.  The Marlins.  In fact, every single team that has won a championship has done it within a shorter waiting period of time than the Cubs would have with the current streak at 102 years and counting.  Give me a break ‘shocked’. The Cubs are DUE.

You know what I think would be shocking?  If the Royals win the World Series in 2011.  If the Pirates win the World Series in 2011.  If the Orioles win the World Series in 2011.  And yes, even if the Phillies win the World Series in 2011 I’d be shocked because how often do you actually meet expectations and nothing goes wrong for your team to stop you from what should have been an easily accomplished, obvious to predict feat?  In each of those scenarios, I would be SHOCKED.

If the Cubs win it?  Not so much.  Surprised?  Elated?  Thrilled?  Speechless?  Relieved? Absolutely.  But after 102 years and with the roster that we have (that’s right, the roster that we have) I believe in one of the other age-old sayings in sports when it comes to predicting how a season will turn out.  And that is: Why not us?

And really, why not us?

As far as I’m concerned, great teams need five key things to win it all and I believe the Cubs have the potential to meet every single criteria.  Pitching, youth, veteran leadership, wise management, luck.  Some are MUCH harder to come by, but I see no reason why the Cubs can’t land the money ball in every single category.

PITCHING: Our starters were great when it came to quality starts in 2010.  Dempster is about as reliable as it gets and a great guy to have in the clubhouse.  He’s the rock of the rotation for 2011 now that Lilly is gone and there is no reason to think he can’t be the leader in the starting five.  Zambrano is equal parts talent and equal parts imbalance. That’s what many believe, I don’t buy it.  Zambrano is extremely talented and capable of doing great things, proven in his overall Cub record, leading the team in the past five Opening Day starts, throwing a no-hitter, being a dominant figure on the mound and the way he finished the second half of last season.  If he can start the way he did last year and finish the way he did last year, then Zambrano might just be capable of handling just about anything.  And what are the odds that he will go from Opening Day starter, to bullpen, back to rotation with head issues in between mixed with being the center of a lot of team drama? Chances are that’s not going to happen again.  I like Z’s chances of having a real quality 2011.  Wells is working on showing people that his first year is the real Wells, not the sophomore slump guy we watched in 2010.  I like that he can admit that he grew too big for his britches last year. Talent is great but mixed with maturity, it can go a long way.

Silva/Russell/Cashner are practically interchangeable.  No matter who ends up staying with the club, they will be the Cubs’ fifth starter and usually .500 seasons out of your number five guy is about all anyone hopes for.  I know they are all capable of giving us that if not greater ALTHOUGH, if it’s not Russell, all we’re looking at are righties in the starting rotation.  (That can’t be good).

And of course, the Cubs’ new toy for 2011…the new piece on the showroom floor: Matt Garza.  I was disappointed when I heard we were bringing in another guy this off-season but his name wasn’t Carlos.  I really want to lead the league in Carloses (Carlosi?  Carli?). I’m kidding….Matt Garza is possibly the missing link the Cubs have been looking for.  15 wins last season, an ALCS MVP and an all-around solid pitcher.  Coming from an environment and culture similar to the Cubs where no one expected much, he knows what it is to help get a team from the basement to the penthouse of an incredibly competitive division.  I like the Garza signing.  I don’t think we gave up too much for him and I’m excited to have him as a key part of the Cubs starting rotation in 2011.

Marshall/Wood/Marmol. Is there a better bullpen trio in the league?  Maybe only the Yankees and that’s only because they landed Soriano to match with Rivera.  Rivera is a legend, but he’s also another year older.  Even if they make the Cubs #2 in the league, I’d take it because in the grand scheme of things, being number two in the league regarding your top three bullpen guys is pretty damn good and nothing to complain about.  I love the talent and potential we have to close games out now, starting with a lead going into the seventh and holding it throughout the rest of the game. 2010 was horrible for the Cubs when it came to one-run decisions.  This next season? Not so much.

The Cards are strong with their 1-2 punch in Wainwright and Carpenter.  The Reds are impressive with their young staff coming off a division title.  The Brewers always seem to compete and will do so with Greinke in 2011.  It’s not going to be easy, but pitching wins championships and I feel comfortable putting the Cubs staff up against any one else in the Central.

THE ROSTER:  Our starting line-up, while somewhat premature considering it’s only January 14th and pitchers and catchers don’t even report until a month from now, is pretty much figured out for the most part.  Not in any particular batting order, just a simple run-down of Cubs starters by position:

C – Geovany Soto – Talented young catcher, one of the best in the National League. Coming off an off-year last year but recently signed an extension with additional money/increased salary.  He’ll be looking to show the Ricketts and the fans that the Cubs didn’t make a mistake in signing him and avoiding arbitration, or for counting on him even after shoulder surgery (probably the key reason he was only signed to a one-year deal…again, man, this is the year of the one-year deal, isn’t it?). Also, all we have behind him is Koyie Hill really, so Soto, you have no choice.  You need to be awesome…no relying on Koyie. Thanks.

1B – Carlos Pena – Our latest Carlos addition to the Cubs.  Pena batted under .200 for the season in 2010.  He was one of many one-year contracts that were doled out in the off-season (do that many people think they have a shot at Pujols?) and he is expected to bring the power bat necessary to replace Lee’s spot in the order.  His glove is supposed to be reliable and his power numbers shouldn’t suffer at Wrigley.  I like the signing, I think it has a lot of potential to work out and I believe his BA will rebound.  God, help us if it doesn’t.  I’m tired of anyone thinking Colvin is a good option at first and Lee’s already been exiled to Baltimore.  This has a lot of potential to work and if he stays healthy, I believe it will.

2B – Blake Dewitt – I don’t expect much out of DeWitt and I believe Baker may even replace him come June or July. However, with the other guys in this line up, second base is a place that we really just need the flash and reliability of the glove on defense, not necessarily a whole lot of RBI.  Just get on base and set the table for the guys we’re paying to knock in the runs Dewitt and we’ll all be happy.

SS – Starlin Castro – The club already has ads sporting Castro against Jeter, so yeah, the organization is high on Castro.  All of the Cubs Con materials feature the youthful stars of the team and Castro, after finishing in the top 10 for the NL in hitting his rookie campaign is among the top of them.  No sophomore on the team is expected to do more than Castro is, I believe the expectations on him are even higher than Soto’s were.  Hopefully he lives up to them and continues to learn under Quade’s leadership.

3B – Aramis Ramirez – If Ramirez stays healthy (and I understand it’s a big IF) then he will be fine.  He is playing at the end of his current contract and if he truly wants to stay in Chicago as a Cub, then 2011 is the time to prove the Cubs should pick up the 2012 option. He picked up his own option for 2011.  The team has the call in 2012.  Rami can put up big numbers healthy.  I’ll be rooting for the trainers once again this year to see that it happens.

OF – Soriano, Byrd, Colvin, Fukudome – No, I don’t think we’re playing softball.  I simply believe left to right we’ll start Sori, Byrd and Colvin and Fuke will sub in where needed.  I believe we’ll be seeing Reed Johnson at Wrigley a bunch this year as well.  Chances that five outfielders stay healthy and produce are very slim, however, I like our chances with the guys we’ve got.  They all bring something different to the table and they are a talented bunch at that.  Hopefully Byrd can repeat his All-Star caliber performance of 2010 in 2011 (it wouldn’t hurt for Sori to make a return to the All-Star stage as well.  Just saying).

New manager: Mike Quade – Quade took a team playing for absolutely nothing and had them playing basically .600 ball. He proved to be a great leader in teaching the young stars on the team and the vets respect his long journey and knowledge he’s gathered throughout his life in the game.  As of Opening Day, the entire team will be behind the idea of having him as their manager.  Some more than others as some of them even went as far as publicly backing his selection before it was announced. Quade is going to get a chance to do something he’s always wanted to do and the players believe he can get them what they’ve always wanted to get.  The same thing the city has always wanted to see.  A title.  A championship.  A ring.

Given all the unknowns that happen to every single team throughout a baseball season, luck becomes a great factor, indeed. However, luck is out of our control as it is every other team in baseball so as for things we can control, I think the ingredients and potential are there. Let’s hope the execution and results show up as well.

Respect to the rest of the Central, the National League and the Red Sox (that’s right, the Red Sox…I don’t even think the Yankees are making the playoffs in 2011).  I think it’s going to be a tough road to get there, but after 102 years…come on…we don’t expect it to be easy…and we’re due.  Why not us?  A Cubs fan predicting the Cubs will win the NL Central and then go on to win the World Series.

I know.  Shocking.

Projected order of finish in the NL Central (rest of the league to follow in a post much closer to Opening Day):

1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Ok, now seriously, calendar…get moving!  Looking forward to hearing from any one that might have any news or pics from Cubs Con and of course, pitchers and catchers in a month!

Go Cubs Go!  

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Blessing in Disguise

When it comes to Chicago Cubs baseball, if recent events have taught us anything, it’s never say always.  One of my favorite things to say here at Prose and Ivy is, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  Given our performance in the past against the lowly Pirates, it always appeared on the year’s schedule as a gift-wrapped blessing.  A small three day break if you will where wonderful things happen like Cubs home runs flying out of the park, pitchers dominating on the mound, Cubs ending up on the right end of a blow out and W flags are hooked to the flag pole rope at the top of the first for it’s inevitable rising after the top of the ninth.  Plan to head home early folks because the Pirates are coming to town.  There won’t be any Cubs batting in the bottow of the ninth because there won’t be one.  These games are given.  The Pirates can’t handle the talent and the skill level the Cubs bring to their games.  Regardless of how the Cubs were going, if you see Pittsburgh coming up on the schedule, get ready for at least a three game turnaround and find your brooms.  The Cubs were about to seem the Pirates and all will feel right again in Wrigleyville.

That was then.  This…is now.

All of a sudden, the Cubs can’t be counted on to beat one of the worst teams in all of baseball and the cellar dweller or the NL Central.  See that .342 winning percentage and the 17 games that they currently sit behind the division leading Reds?  Don’t let that fool you!  When the Pirates have had the all-of-a-sudden priviledge of playing the Cubs, they are a surreal .800 ballclub!  In ten games against the Cubs this year, they’ve won 8 and lost 2.  What?!?  WHAT!?!  There are certain things that this blog feels it can count on:  baseball magazines and websites and blogs will have the Cubs listed as contenders in the Central, talk whether this is the year and then the Cubs will let you down come October (some seasons even earlier); Dempster will predict the Cubs will win it all; Carlos Marmol will be responsible for at least six heart attacks across the midwest throughout the course of a season; Sox fans will hate on Cubs fans and vice versa; and if nothing else is going our way, hey hey…at least ‘We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh’.  Well, that last one apparently no longer applies.  And it just may be a blessing in disguise.

Think about how this season is going.  The Reds lead the NL Central and the Cubs currently sit in fourth place looking up at the unfortunate view of Brewers behinds, hardly even keeping the Cardinals in sight, while the Reds are a ******** 10 games out in front of them.  The offense thinks it’s still the off-season.  Carlos Zambrano is seeing a shrink.  Piniella seems to be snoozing through the first half of the season.  All of our ‘all-stars’ suddenly look too old, too injured, or too apathetic.  Castro started out hot and then cooled off to an average pace.  Wells can’t seem to find the form that kept him one of the club’s most dominant pitchers in ’09.  And for some reason, we CAN’T beat the Pirates.  Fine.  If that’s the way it is…if that’s the way it’s going to be, then perhaps the rest of the things we’ve come to expect can start to make a change as well.

Perhaps the head shrink can get Zambrano under control and he can perform out of the bullpen upon possibly returning after the All-Star break.  Perhaps Wells can find his form and start to lead this club through a charge to possibly make up 10 games to the top of the division.  Our crosstown rivals just made a huge push to put themselves in the club of relevant baseball teams for this year, and if they can do it I KNOW we can do it.  Perhaps we will find a way to win one run ballgames in the 2nd half of the season.  Those eighteen losses in one run games might just be the single most frustrating aspect of 2010.  Perhaps since what has become the norm against Pittsburgh has been turned on it’s head, maybe all of these other things we’ve come to expect from this team this year can take a change of course as well.  Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.

Of course, if it does happen there is a very good chance that we may have a few different guys wearing that same disguise as there are rumors that everyone from Zambrano to Marmol to Fukudome to Lilly are on the trading block.  I’m not sure how far behind we need to be for Ricketts to consider himself a seller as opposed to a buyer.  He’s a good business man it seems, but he’s also a fan.  I wonder how hard it must be for him to make rationale decisions when analyzing at point this particular team is no longer going to make the push it needs to contend.  I wonder if Ricketts thinks Pittsburgh is just another symptom of an extremely frustrating and disappointing Cubs season.  I wonder if he can find a way out of this mess and find the blessings in all of this turmoil.  So many fans on-line if you read around the Cubsblogosphere have already said ‘please, no more’ or are very close to taking that flag and throwing it in like a towel.  I don’t like our odds against the rest of the league if we can’t even handle Pittsburgh.  However, I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to put the beating on us the way they have.  Hopefully an unexpected 180 on this season’s trajectory is around the corner as well.  If not Pittsburgh, we’ll always have fool’s hope, right? 

(Any thoughts you’d like to share can be done in the comments section, or if you’d like, you can call into tonight’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance podcast.  I’m guest hosting tonight at 11pm EST and you can find the show’s site and information here!  And since I’m hosting with WebSoulSurfer who runs a Padres blog, I’ve included a clip of the Derrek Lee/Chris Young fight.  Why not?  Enjoy.  Go Cubs Go!)


Tro-Lou-Lou!

Since Piniella made the well-spun ‘voluntary/good of the team’ Zambrano move to the bullpen last week, the Cubs’ bats woke up in the third game of the series against the Mets, swept the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers and are riding a four game winning streak.  I was at the game against the Mets at Citi Field when the club finally managed to win a game against the also struggling Mets (who have since also seemed to figure some of their issues out).  It felt good to finally sit amongst Cubs fans after a game at Citi with the Cubs on top in the final score, providing the opportunity to sing Go Cubs Go on the way out of the stadium! 

Here are some photos from that Cubs victory at Citi Field:

When I showed up to Citi Field it was raining pretty hard.  The rest of the day was beautiful and then of course one hour before game time…POURING!

rainy outside citi.JPG

Which gave the baseball fans coming off the subway nothing better to do than hang out under cover and get into a yelling match…Let’s Go Cubbies…Let’s Go Mets…(repeat)

cub met fan arguing.JPG

Eventually the cops came and show was over.  Mets fan got in, Cubs fan didn’t.  After I got inside I was greeted by a giant tarp mocking the fans hoping for a quick start time.  The game eventually started at 7:45pm (not bad)

citi field tarp first baseline.JPG

So I waited it out in the upper level, under cover in a seat that wasn’t mine (self photography sometimes comes out blurry, what can I say)

sitting at cubs mets.JPG

And after sneaking by a security guard, I eventually enjoyed watching the game from the FIELD LEVEL (another seat that wasn’t mine) and had a great view to see the Cubs blow out the Mets!  Good times had by almost all..just not the Mets fans.  

citi field field level.JPG

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog about how please Lou must be with himself regarding all the quality decisions he’s made recently:

Ted Lilly returned from the DL to the starting rotation prompting the Z move and the team went on a tear against the BrewCrew.  The Cubs team we all had the opportunity to watch decimate Milwaukee over the weekend very well may be the result of Lou’s decision to mix things up a bit.  To shake up the entire clubhouse by making ONE major decision.  Take your opening day ace and put him in the bullpen.  Strengthen the bullpen, make room for what was arguably last year’s ace in the starting rotation, keep Silva’s dynamic 2010 rolling and meanwhile, mix young talent in with vets to light a fire under the overpaid ‘stars’ and push the whole ‘let’s just have fun’ mentality on the team in a pep talk that seems to have had an impact for about a week already!  I don’t think any rational Cubs fan actually thought the season was over a week ago, but MAN…we certainly didn’t look good, that’s for sure!

Soriano seems to have found his swing and his legs.  Ramirez seems to have decided the best thing for him is to not swing at all, leading to last night’s game winning walk-off walk.  Derrek Lee is still blasting the ball so hard only mother nature can keep him in the park.  Marlon Byrd shows that even husky centerfielders who look like they would be better fitted to lead block for the Bears offense can man the outfield and produce at the plate, with new lineups even featuring his hot bat in the clean up spot!  Marmol has been placing his pitches extremely well, shaping up to be one of the game’s great closers and proving that the job should have been his two years ago (when I said it should have)!  All the while, it seems like the right guy are getting playing time despite the way their paycheck reads and the appropriate selections are being made when deciding who to send down to the farm teams. 

Lou Piniella has had a hand in all of it.  The pep talks, the decisions, the private meetings, the line ups.  He’s pulling the strings and manning the man behind the curtain position extremely well right now and I hope he continues to do so.  He has a reputation of one of the great managerial minds in baseball, even if every now and then he throws a three year old style tantrum and should lay off the ballpark snacks more than he usually does.  Does his belly look like a profile causing some children to wonder if that guy is the manager or the mascot?  Perhaps.  Is he perfect?  NO!  But is he doing a great job right now?  Yes.  Do I think his moves are enough to win us the most pathetic prize in professional sports: the BP Crosstown Cup?  Sure.  Do I think he’s giving us a shot at the big prize of the World Series trophy if he keeps this kind of performance up?  Absolutely. 

Tune into a Cubs game and find them up five or six runs half way through the game with the starter reeling away at opposing batters and our late inning duo of Zambrano and Marmol waiting to squash any thoughts of late game rallies and zoom in real close to Lou Piniella’s head.  Is he still thinking strategies to win the game he’s in with the big picture on his mind?  I’m sure he is.  Is he probably feeling pretty good about the way these decisions he’s made of late have been turning out?  More than likely, if we could see inside his head, it may look a little something like this:

Keep it up guys and keep it up Lou!  Gotta give you credit while we pile up the W’s because you know how the fingers are pointed at you when the other flag gets hung up as well!  Go Cubs Go!

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Opening at Home With a W

Incredible game today as we defeated the Brewers 9-5.  Great start to our home schedule and the home crowd was loving the turn around the team showed at home as opposed to the flop our  opening road trip turned into thanks to an ineffective bullpen and non-existent run production.  Starting pitching proved to be a strength today with Dempster’s performance, masterfully handling the Brew Crew, fully taking advantage of the power surge the Cubs offense displayed in  hitting three home runs today at Wrigley.

Good thing we didn’t stop hitting them while they looked like they were going to go down.  We had them on the ropes and kept going after strong with the head shots and body blows.  Good thing.  The Brewers managed to come back into the game, scoring five runs over all and if we hadn’t kept pushing and getting as many runs as we did, this one could’ve easily gone the other way and there would be no singing in Cubville this afternoon.

Mighty Casey…a small word of advice to our Cubs.  Stop waiting for and relying on Might Casey.  The home run is not always going to be there.  Games of multiple home runs certainly won’t always be there.  A large majority of our runs so far this year has come from the long ball and today was the only time we had such an outburst of hits.  This outburst of men on base needs to happen far more often.  How often is Soriano going to have a multi-hit game after all?  He’s so afraid of running into the brick wall (all of a sudden) it seems to be effecting his whole game.  Lou has to find away to put a lineup together that not only features power capability, but also the skill to manufacture runs.  Right now, we look more like the pep squad firing off t-shirts to the masses at an NBA basketball game the way we’re scoring runs with the ball jumping off the bat, as opposed to a team of skilled, strategic baseball players who can be patient at the plate, get their pitches and work their way on base.  Now, of course I’m not complaining about home runs.  It’s just, we need to get on-base more often like we did today, work the bases wisely and rack up the hits working our guys on base around to home.  Jeff Baker, Xavier Nady and Aramis Ramirez all went deep today and we won.  Great.  No complaints.  Since there were guys on base, those home runs counted for more than just solo shots.  But it’s not always going to be that way just as no other game this year has been that way.  Most of the time we are simply going to need well-placed, timely hitting to get the job done.  We have a couple guys that tend to be all or nothing style hitters.  We can’t have our guys 1-8, game in and game out playing that same way as one cohesive offensive unit.  Lou needs to fix this and fix it fast.  Today was a nice change, sure, but we need this more often than not.

Love beating the Brewers and love a win on Opening Day at home.  Hang your ugly pictures on the building for the week.  Discuss putting up a horrendous Toyota sign in left field.  As long as we keep winning, those things are going to get a lot less attention and all anyone will really be talking about is how good it feels to watch our Cubs win game after game and prove to be true contenders in 2010.
Dempster was really good today.  Let’s hope that continues with his next outing.  You fans with tickets to tomorrow’s game, get your singing voices ready.  I’m hoping you’ll have a chance to showcase them like today’s crowd did after a great Opening Day performance by the Cubs.
Go Cubs Go!
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Uno!

And not in a good “family game night” kind of way either.

Cubs lost to the Giants today and the Rockies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.  At the start of the day our elimination number was holding strong at three.  After these two events, our elimination number is down to one.  And unless a miracle happens, this will be the last day of the season that I post while we’re still in contention for a playoff spot.
Wells was unsuccessful in his bid for win number 12 as San Francisco proved to be too much for him and held strong at five games out of the wild card spot.  Here now is what the American League and National League wild card standings look like:
wild card as of 9:27.pngUnbelievably the American League is down to only two teams left vying for the final playoff spot.  The rest of the league is out.  National League proved to be a little more competitive this year as five teams are still left competing.  Surprisingly, Atlanta has jumped up to second place, only two and a half games behind the Rockies after their recent six game win streak.  Their elimination number is five so the rest of this week should prove to be interesting for both the Braves and Rockies.  It’s only a matter of time (barring miracles of course) for the rest of the teams listed that are still in contention.
This is why it’s important to kick the season off fast, stay strong and finish strong.  Every game counts when you tally it all up and look at the big picture.  Those one run losses early on may not have seemed like a big deal then.  Now, you’d love to have those turn around into one run wins.  Would make a huge difference.  Play the episode of today’s Prose and Ivy Cubs Blog Talk Radio show I recorded earlier today, listed in the side bar on the right.  My take on Bradley, next year’s line up and rotation, use of the young talent, Fukudome’s worth and what it all means looking at 2010 is discussed on the show.  
Enjoy the talk now and leave a comment or two while we’re technically still in it.  One loss or one Rockies win and our ’09 will officially wrap come the final regular season game.  The rest of the way we play at Wrigley where we are much better than we are on the road.  Maybe that will matter and maybe it won’t.  Unfortunately that’s the stressful and depressing part of losing control of your own destiny.  One to go.  Will it come Tuesday?  Will it come at all?  Hope not.  We’ll see.  On top of playing at home, we’ve got Pittsburgh coming to town.  We know how I feel about Pittsburgh…wish we could play them all 162 games.  The Rockies on the other hand have Monday off as well and then face the Brewers.  Can’t imagine the Brewers would like to do us any favors.  Doesn’t look good.  But again, we’ll see.
Dempster at home against the Pirates on Tuesday.  All we can do is our part and hope for the best.  Go Cubs Go!
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Got any change?

Hey buddy, got any change?

If you’re a Cubs fan, that’s pretty much what you’re thinking about, hoping for and expecting come this off-season.  And the Cubs have no choice.  Staying put is a recipe for disaster.  Last year they won back to back division titles and made significant moves.  This year their go to guys couldn’t get a hit in the clutch when it mattered most, the starting pitchers had no run support and many turned in sub-par seasons when the organization and fans had hopes and dreams of so much more.  This off-season therefore, should show significant action above and beyond what we saw last winter.

Zambrano has a no-trade clause and apparently he’s not budging.  Ok, fine.  You know what then?  My feeling is that it’s not time to give up on Zambrano, simply time to expect less.  He’s no longer the ace of this staff.  Well, let me rephrase that.  He is the ace of this staff, however not deservingly so.  He’s seen his last consecutive Opening Day start, his last year as the number one guy.  We had guys on this roster this year who performed more like the ace of the staff than Zambrano did, never mind the possibilities of what we may come up with in a trade or a free agent signing elsewhere across the league.  So that’s what needs to be done with Z.  Knock him down a peg.  Bring in a true ace.  The Cards are deep in the ace category which is why they are destroying us this year.  It seems like their entire staff dominated this season, two of their starters vying for the Cy Young award in the NL.  We need a guy with the right stuff literally up his sleeve, and in his head.  A leader.  A true ace.  Move Z down and find that guy.  A rotation where Z is your number 2 or 3 guy instead of your 1 is a huge upgrade right there.

So Z needs a change of spot in the rotation and change of expectations to carry on his shoulders.  Others need a change of location in the lineup.  Soriano isn’t capable of leading off any longer and Piniella has already announced those days are done.  Good.  Move him to the sixth hole where power is more of a commodity.  Where you’re practically a DH expected to field your position only slightly above average.  Come to think of it…why not experiment moving Soriano back to 2B in the Spring?  His knee is clearly a problem.  Covering the hole at second calls for a lot less hustle and grind over the course of 162 than covering a large amount of room in left.  His knee can’t take it and the final games showed that he may not be our guy out there defensively.  Sure he was in pain, but who’s to say that won’t happen again after another long season in left?  Perhaps moving Soriano to the sixth hole to take advantage of his power and to 2B to take advantage of other options in the outfield is the way to go.  Love Sori’s bat potential…his detriment to our defense is too much to have him as our regular LF though.  Sori to the 6 hole and 2B.  Something to consider.

Other guys simply need a change of scenery.  Enter, Milton Bradley.  Or should I say, Exit.  Bradley has been suspended by the Cubs organization for the remainder of the season.  Comments he’s made were determined detrimental to the team and organization and I believe we’ve seen the last of Milton Bradley in a Cubs uniform.  You can’t simply come in with a history of being a problem child, sign a three year deal which pays you 10million a year to play a game for a living, be expected to bring the power left-handed bat the team needs to put them (at least) out of the realm of being swept in the first round of the playoffs…then only produce a .257 AVG, 12 HR and put up 40 RBI.  And then on top of it all, blame everyone but yourself for your poor performance while trashing the organization that gave you a great opportunity in the first place.  Why doesn’t he get what he could potentially be a part of?  Imagine if this team won it all?  He’d get to be a part of the largest celebrated, most talked about sports championship in the history of sports.  And he’d be marked as a huge reason why.  Instead, he limps out of a game, refuses to bat and disgraces his time here in every which way.  I don’t believe Milton Bradley deserves any racist comments that may have been thrown his way by fans.  And I’m not equating taking that kind of abuse to having to read poor stats in the box scores every day…however, I believe Bradley and the fans deserve better.  As far as I can tell, it looks like both may very well get just that.

Mathematically, we’re still in (blah, blah).  However, with reality comes the expectation that our season will end come the final game of the regular season.  The thing that makes these remaining games fun to watch is simply Cubs baseball, rivalries, playing spoiler and watching the young guys get their shot.  Think about how you feel just weeks after the final out is recorded in a Cubs game.  Think about how much you can’t wait for Spring to come around again so that the Cubs are back.  That feeling is right around the corner, so enjoy watching the remaining games while you can.  Sure, it’s not always pretty, but at least it’s there.  And the rivalries…good times.  Who doesn’t love watching Cubs/Brewers, Cubs/Cardinals no matter the time of year?  Those are always entertaining.  I don’t care if all are eliminated, simply fun to root for the Cubs to beat those teams and we got a week of the Brewers coming up.  Let’s go out strong and make a statement to take with us into the winter and into the Spring that we don’t just lay down and die.  The players, management, or the fans.  And let’s enjoy watching the young guns get their shot at the grand stage.  I’m excited about Tyler Colvin coming up.  I can’t wait to see what he may have to contribute as a potential future Cub great.  He’s a coveted Cub prospect, his season is over and now is his time to shine.  Shining in Spring training only means so much.  Shining against division rivals when the games still matter is something else.  Our outfield is depleted.  Our team is hurting and so are our chances of making the playoffs.  So let’s get out there, change our outlook on the ending of this season starting today and enjoy the remaining games and the FEW positive things we have left to root for in ’09 Cubs fans.

I mean really, what’s the alternative?  Cry about it?  Not this year.  Besides…if you cry about the Cubs into the Fall and Winter this year, when will you have time to do so about the ’09 Bears?  Pace yourself.  Expect change.  Enjoy this ’09 team while you can.  Gorzelanny on the mound tonight (see that, change already).  Colvin on the grand stage up from AA ball.  Let’s beat Milwaukee…get that W Gorzelanny!  Go Cubs Go!

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